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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 19 2012

Appalachian State provides blueprint for a dynasty for NDSU

FARGO – As a member of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff committee, Appalachian State athletic director Charlie Cobb got more than a good look at the Fargodome two years ago. He also took a few Christmas presents back to Boone, N.C.

Concordia Cobbers T-shirts made for nice Cobb family gifts.

He also saw some of the same things with North Dakota State that he had at Appalachian when the school won three straight national titles from 2005-07. The Bison, who play Sam Houston State (Texas) Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas, are a long way from that, but Cobb said the foundation is there.

He points to facilities, fan base, leadership and team chemistry as qualities that have gotten NDSU to its second straight title appearance.

“There are a lot of similarities with the passion and the fan base,” Cobb said. “Just the energy the community has for the program and certainly the success.”

Appalachian State routinely is near the top of FCS attendance, finishing first this year, drawing an average of 26,358 fans per game. NDSU was fifth at 18,516. Beyond that, he sees the right mix of coaches and administrators.

“It starts with leadership,” Cobb said. “The coaches have to recruit talented players and put guys on the field that can have successful chemistry. I don’t think there’s a greater element in sports with teams than chemistry. Everybody has to play together, and it’s a great advantage to play at home.”

Cobb says the raucous Fargodome must be worth seven points to the home team. When Appalachian won its three titles, it played all nine of its second round, quarterfinal and semifinal games at its Kidd Brewer Stadium.

The Mountaineers went 3-3 in road playoff games since 2000.

“Honestly, the first time was the hardest,” Cobb said of the 2005 national title. “You really don’t know the expectations. One of the things I remember the coaches talking about wasn’t about trying to play in the semifinals or finals. The focus is on the game, the opponent, and leave all the peripheral stuff to the administration and the fans. The coaches and kids focus on playing a game. You keep it that simple.”

NDSU and Sam Houston are the first teams to have a title rematch since Montana and Marshall in 1995 and 1996. Appalachian beat Northern Iowa, Massachusetts and Delaware in its three-peat.

The Mountaineers are the only FCS program to win three straight, something that will be felt for years to come in the community.

“Those three years catapulted the entire university and athletic program without a doubt,” Cobb said.

Georgia Southern won two straight on three separate occasions, the last in 1999 and 2000, while Youngstown State won consecutive titles in 1993 and 1994.

“A lot of it is kids managing expectations,” Cobb said. “We became the target. Plus you have to be lucky with injuries. You play a lot of games – 15 games this year and 15 games last year – that’s a lot of games.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia